We were fortunate enough to speak to Leslie Dixon in my class this past week. She was very kind to share her time, expertise, and experience with the students.
We read the script for LIMITLESS before the class, then watched the movie and read along with the screenplay. There were interesting changes from script to screen. The script is based on The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. She kept basically the first act of the book and then added A LOT after that. The main set up was there, but she elaborated and expanded on the jeopardy.
My first nugget of learning for you via Ms. Dixon would be to do what we did, which is read along with the movie.
What I strongly urge you to do is PRINT the screenplay. Print it two pages or four pages to the page if you want, but print it. Then, go through it carefully and watch the movie with red pen in hand and cross out dialogue or bits of action that were cut. It is VERY VERY VERY instructive to see what got written that either didn’t get shot, or didn’t make it out of the editing room. (No such thing as an editing room floor now that there are no pieces of film to drop on said floor — plus, editors never drop film on the floor anyway; they keep it clean and roll it up with the sound and file it away neatly)
There are bunches of examples of dialogue that got cut because it was slightly, even obliquely, repetitive. Barely repetitive means repetetive. Not what you want.
It’s difficult in our own work to see what my DON’T REPEAT rubber stamp actually means. You ask: “What does it mean, for dialogue to say the same thing twice?” Here in glowing color (the movie) and black and white (the script) is a perfect learning experience. It will blow your mind when you see dialogue — written by one of the most talented, most successful (and generous with her time) screenwriters of the past several decades — that gets cut.
In the next few days, I’ll tell you a couple of nuggets of storytelling gold that came from Ms. Dixon via the Q&A after the movie.